Book of the Month Between a Wolf and a Dog

This month Stella celebrates ‘Between a Wolf and a Dog’, a heartfelt and intelligent book shortlisted for the 2017 Stella Prize, and the life of its author, the late Georgia Blain.

Georgia Blain’s final novel Between a Wolf and a Dog has been republished, with a new introduction by Stella Prize-listed author Charlotte Wood. Later this month, Blain’s collection of short stories, We All Lived in Bondi Then, will be released too. To celebrate both titles, Stella interviewed Blain’s publisher, Marika Webb-Pullman.

Blain’s Between a Wolf and a Dog has been described as “beautiful, sensitive and unsettling”. It has been praised for its use of language and the portrayal of the estranged sisters’ relationship. What drew you in to this book in first instance?

From my first reading, I was in awe of Georgia’s ability to achieve so much with her prose, which, while undeniably moving, is also known for being quite spare. She had an incredible economy of language that paired wonderfully with her deep understanding of people. I still recall how it felt to enter the world of the novel for the first time — that ever-present rain almost a character in its own right — and the way Ester’s work as a therapist gave Georgia, and the reader, access to a range of beautifully complex problems that deepened the themes of the novel.

“It skilfully explores the knotty, complicated matter of living, loving, and dying through its careful, graceful, intelligent focus on human relationships.”

We All Lived in Bondi, Blain’s final short story collection, will be published later this month. How was the editing process like for this book?

Georgia and I worked together closely on Between a Wolf and a Dog, from the structural notes to the line edit (and those last-minute corrections and changes that almost every book has). The stories in We All Lived in Bondi Then came to me essentially fully formed. They’d been prepared as a collection by Georgia before her death, and I knew that she had considered them finished. I performed a light line- and copy-edit, which I sent to Georgia’s partner, Andrew — he and I had worked together on The Museum of Words, which was published posthumously, and we trusted each other to respect and safeguard Georgia’s writing.

Writer and critic Tegan Bennett Daylight wrote: ‘Georgia’s writing was about people close up, the truth of an exchange like this one, the inadequate way we are in the face of death’. If you had to sum up Georgia’s writing in one sentence, what would that be?

That it skilfully explores the knotty, complicated matter of living, loving, and dying through its careful, graceful, intelligent focus on human relationships.

About the Author

Georgia Blain (1964 – 2016) published novels for adults and young adults, essays, short stories and a memoir. Her first novel was the bestselling Closed for Winter, which was made into a feature film (James Bogle, 2009). Her books have been shortlisted for numerous awards including the NSW, Victorian, and SA Premiers’ Literary Awards, the ALS Gold Medal, the Stella Prize and the Nita B. Kibble Award for her memoir Births Deaths Marriages. Georgia’s works include The Secret Lives of MenToo Close to Home, and the YA novel Darkwater. In 2016, Georgia published Between a Wolf and a Dog and the YA novel SpecialBetween a Wolf and a Dog was shortlisted for the 2017 Stella Prize, and was awarded the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction and the 2016 University of Queensland Fiction Book Award. Georgia passed away in December 2016.

About the Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outside, the rain continues unceasing; silver sheets sluicing down, the trees and shrubs soaking and bedraggled, the earth sodden, puddles overflowing, torrents coursing onwards, as the darkness slowly softens with the dawn.

 

Ester is a family therapist with an appointment book that catalogues the anxieties of the middle class: loneliness, relationships and death. She spends her days helping others find happiness, but her own family relationships are tense and frayed. Estranged from both her sister, April, and her ex-husband, Lawrence, Ester wants to fall in love again. Meanwhile, April is struggling through her own directionless life; Lawrence’s reckless past decisions are catching up with him; and Ester and April’s mother, Hilary, is about to make a choice that will profoundly affect them all.

Taking place largely over one rainy day in Sydney, and rendered with the evocative and powerful prose Blain is known for, Between a Wolf and a Dog is a celebration of tour capacity to live in the face of ordinary sorrows, and to draw strength from the transformative power of art. Ultimately, it is a joyous tribute to the beauty of being alive. Read an except of the book.

Judges’ Report

Between a Wolf and a Dog is an accomplished and sympathetic novel about love and motherhood, therapy, the impact of betrayal, and the choices that arise from acts of irresponsibility, or from careful deliberation. Ester is a therapist, advising her clients on the options available to them that they can’t always see for themselves. Her ex-husband, Lawrence, is a pollster who manipulates his data for the thrill of transgression, but who is ultimately required to perform an unselfish and difficult act. Between a Wolf and a Dog is Georgia Blain’s final novel, and it is a triumph: finely structured, suspenseful and morally acute.

Further Reading

Listen to Georgia Blain chat with Charlotte Wood about her book Between a Wolf and a Dog at Byron Writers Festival.

Read Sophie Cunningham‘s tribute to Georgia Blain in The Guardian.

Discover what Jo Case wrote about Between a Wolf and a Dog for the Australian Book Review.

Read Bernadette Brennan‘s exploration of Blain’s The Museum of Words: a memoir of language, writing and mortality.

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